Today in New Orleans History

October 23

Shushan Airport Milneburg Joys

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Tulane Stadium Opens
October 23, 1926


Ground was broken for Tulane stadium on April 7, 1924.  It opened on October 23, 1926 with a seating capacity of roughly 35,000. New Orleans-Item sports editor Fred Digby popularized the term "Sugar Bowl" in 1927. The first Sugar Bowl game was played there on January 1, 1935, against the Philadelphia Temple Owls.  The last was on December 31, 1974 when Nebraska beat Florida 14-10.

In 1947 the stadium was expanded to accommodate 80,985 fans. Lights were installed in 1957.

It was the home of the  Saints, from their first game on September 17, 1967 when John Gilliam returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown (but they lost 27-13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams) until December 8, 1974 when they won 14-0 over the St. Louis Cardinals. On November 8, 1970, Tom Dempsey made his record-breaking 63-yard field goal there, pushing the Saints into a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions.

TodayInNewOrleansHistory/TulaneStadiumDemolition.gifTulane Stadium was the site of three of the first nine Super Bowls -- Super Bowls IV in 1970, VI in 1972, and IX in 1975. Super Bowl IX was the final professional league game ever played at the stadium. It would become one of three stadiums which hosted a Super Bowl and are no longer standing. Tampa Stadium (which hosted two Super Bowls) was demolished in April 1999 and the Orange Bowl (which hosted five Super Bowl games) was demolished in September 2008.

The record attendance of 86,598 was set on December 1, 1973, during the last game played by LSU against Tulane in the Sugar Bowl. Tulane defeated LSU 14-0, ending a 25-year winless streak against LSU.

Tulane's final game at their home stadium ended in a 26-10 loss to Ole Miss on November 30, 1974. 
During its final five years, the stadium was used for football practice, high-school games (in a limited seating area), and other smaller events. The Denver Broncos used Tulane Stadium as its practice field prior to Super Bowl XII, the first Super Bowl played in the Superdome.

The last game ever played in Tulane Stadium was between De La Salleand Rummel on November 1, 1979. The last point scored in Tulane Stadium History was by Rummel High place kicker Gary Boudreaux.  The stadium was under demolition from November 18, 1979 through June 15, 1980.  (Photo by Infrogmation, 1980)

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On October 3, 2011, the announcement was made that German automaker Mercedes-Benz purchased naming rights to the Superdome. The new name took effect on October 23, 2011.  The Dome is the third stadium that has naming rights from Mercedes-Benz (and first in the United States), after the Mercedes-Benz Arena, the stadium of Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart, in Stuttgart, Germany and the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, China.

The East New Orleans Regional Branch of the New Orleans Public Library orginally opened on October 23, 1968.  Post Katrina, a temporary branch opened in the Einstein School on  December, 2007 and closed July, 2009.  Another temporary building opened on branch site on October 5, 2009 and the rebuilt branch opened on April 12, 2012Photo of the ribbon cutting.

WYES Educational Television Station Opens
October 23, 1957
Born in New York City on August 29, 1905, Marion Pfeifer Abramson was raised in New Orleans, attended Isidore Newman School and graduated from Sophie Newcomb College in 1925.  She was editor of the Newcomb/Tulane Hulaballoo student newspaper and ghost-wrote newspaper columns for football end Jerry Dalrymple ("My End of It" -- which several times appeared in the Saturday Evening Post) and  Tulane back Don Zimmerman ("Back Talk").
She married Louis Abramson Jr. in June 1925.  They had one child, Lucie Lee, who grew up to follow in her mother's footsteps regarding service to the community.  After World War II Marion became a member of the national board of the American Association of University Women and later served as president of the New Orleans chapter. She served on the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee in 1946, as a member of the Independent Women's Organization, and was elected in 1959 to as Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committeewoman for Ward 14.
During the 1950s she began planning for an educational television station of our own. This dream became a reality on October 23, 1957, when the National Educational Television (NET) station WYES opened in New Orleans with Marion as Chairperson of the board of directors of the non-profit Greater New Orleans Educational Television Foundation.  WYES-TV signed on the air on April 1, 1957 as the twelfth educational television station in the nation. In 1970, the station swapped frequency allocations with another local station,  becoming Channel 12.
On September 21, 1965 August Perez and Associates submitted plans for the design of Marion Abramson High School at 5500 Reed Road in New Orleans East. Several weeks later, after a life of community service, Marion Abramson died on November 30, 1965, knowing that her name would live on in association with education in the city she loved.
The grainy newspaper photograph to the right is from the Friday, July 29, 1960 edition of the Times-Picayune.  It pictures the members of the Board of Trustees of the Greater New Orleans Educational Television Foundation. It was captioned: Members of the board are (from left, seated) Mrs. Abramson, James W. Ganus, Mrs. Walter Carroll Jr. (standing) Dr. Mayo L. Emory, T. Sterling Dunn, and Francis C. Doyle. The related article described a meeting of the group at the International House where Nash C. Roberts presided as President of the Board of Trustees.  The foundation was planning a two-hour (6-8 p.m.), 1500 women-strong, door-to-door fund-raiser and membership drive ($5 membership) to hopefully raise $25,000.  
Sources: The Times-Picayune, and WYES-TV. 
Related reading: 
New Orleans Television by Dominic Massa

Abe Shushan
 October 23, 1941

TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1941October23AbeShushanKnowsOfArrest.gif The man behind the construction of the lakefront airport and the massive lakefront "land reclamation" along the New Orleans lake shore (see October 29) is pictured here walking out of his office alone on October 23, 1941, after learning of his impending arrest for defrauding his fellow citizens. He had no comments for the the news reporters gathered there but with a forced smile, said the the photographers, "TAKE A GOOD ONE, BOYS".  The mandate for his arrest had been filed at 11:20 a.m.  He was in federal jail by 4:00 that afternoon.

Eight years earlier, on February 10, 1934, the airport opened with great fanfare.  More than 10,000 visitors from around the world attended the dedication of what was coined "the Air Hub of the Americas".  Built at a cost of $4.5 million, the airport's 3,000 foot-long field qualified it for the U.S. Department of Commerce's highest rating of AA-I. The architecture was considered a modern marvel.  Everything about the airport was state-of-the-art and first class.   It was the first major airport in the region and the first combined land and seaplane air terminal in the world.  And it was named Shushan Airport. 

Architect Leon C. Weiss designed it (as well as the state capital, the governor's mansion, the Louisiana State University buildings, and the LSU Medical School. Inside the terminal building were/are beautiful Art Deco appointments as well as murals by artist Xavier Gonzalez, friezes by Enrique R. Alferez who also carved the Fountain of the Four Winds which stands out front.

Shushan Airport, which had been under construction since 1929, sits adjacent to the Industrial Canal on a man-made peninsula jutting into the lake. To make land available for this elaborate project, the Orleans Levee Board drove a 10,000 foot retaining wall into the lake and pumped six million cubic yards of hydraulic fill to raise the field above the water.  It was this project (and others) that landed Shushan, the levee board president, in hot water. 

On March 27, 1934, Shushan submitted his resignation, citing health reasons. In the letter of resignation to Governor O.K. Allen he noted accomplishments during his tenure which included a five-and-one-half long "levee" (along what is now Lakeshore Drive) with an average width of 3500 feet (over one-half mile) for eventual use as residential and recreational development (this became a part of the Lakeview post-WWII subdivisions of Lake Vista, Lake Terrace, etc.).  Shushan was indicted on October 19, 1934 for eight counts of personal income tax evasion, was tried on October 8, 1935, and acquitted later that month of those charges.  He remained the levee board president, however, because at at subsequent meetings of the board there were no quorums, therefore, no means of accepting his resignation.  He was a slick operator, to say the least. He said, regarding the tax evasion charges, that he was being persecuted politically. 

On August 21, 1939, Shusan (and five others) were indicted for mail fraud.  He had allegedly been aware of a bribe which led a levee board member to pursue fellow members not to submit the job for public bid, resulting in Orleans Dredging Company netting the deal.  In 1931 he also allegedly received $130,500 for his part in extorting exorbitant fees from the government, far in excess of services rendered, in a bond refunding deal and for using the U.S. mail to do so (mail fraud). But all that seemingly escaped notice for several years until until the indictment..  He was convicted on December 22, 1939 and sentenced to 30 months in federal prison on January 2, 1940.  The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the case on May 12, 1941 and declined to reconsider its decision on October 3, 1941. 

In October 1941, the Orleans Airport Commission discussed removing the cornerstone of the Shushan Airport which included not only his name but the names of other former levee board members convicted of misdeeds during what became known as the "Louisiana Scandals".  The cornerstone was reported to be "the only place where the name Shushan remains at the airport (which doesn't lend credence to the oft-told urban legend that his name was on all doorknobs, flooring, etc., including plumbing).  The commission decided to keep the stone in place for "historical significance" and a matter of record which should be preserved.

Shushan was released from prison on parole in September of 1942.  On February 28, 1947, President Harry S. Truman granted him a full and unconditional pardon.  

Born on January 12, 1894 in Reserve, Abraham Lazar Shushan on died on November 3, 1966 at Touro Infirmary and is buried in Chevra Thilim Cemetery. He was educated in New Orleans and began his career at Shushan Brothers, a whole-sale dry-goods firm owned by his father and uncle, and later became its president and principal owner.  He had served as levee board president during the terms of four governors (Parker, Fuqua, Long, Allen) who had all appointed him to the position beginning in 1920.  He was a close personal friend of Huey P. Long. Shushan's political clout enabled constitutional amendments calling for the development of the lakefront to be enacted.

On October 23, 1876 the New Orleans Mint reopened (after the Civil War) as an assay office for the testing of a metal to determine its ingredients and quality.

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

Shushan Airport
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